On a Table for Avoiding Death

So old school games have a pretty high death rate. Players often start out with few hit points. And when those are gone, they are dead.

Critical systems increase the death rate, and usually leave the players losing out in the long run due to randomness. But D&D combat tends to be very abstract and generic, how to add more of a Appendix N: feel?

What if we handled it a bit differently? Warhammer has an interesting system where if all the wounds are gone, you are just like you always were, just with 0 wounds. Every hit after that then causes a 'critical effect'.

It's a critical table that actually extends the lifespan of the players! Like the great heroes of Appendix N, they don't simply fall over dead, they lose eyes and limbs and have countless crushed bones.

Dying should be fun!

I have created 3 levels of complexity.

Basic information: Being dropped to 0 hit points has no negative effect. You can not drop below 0 hit points.

Super-Simple: When you take a hit that would drop you to, or past 0 hit points, roll 3d12 and consult the table.

Intermediate: When you take a hit that would drop you to, or past 0 hit points, roll 1d6 plus the damage dealt and consult the table.

Keep track of the total number of bleed, internal bleed, and pain points. Roll this many additional d6's when hit to determine your critical.

Complex: When you take a hit that would drop you to, or past 0 hit points, roll 1d6 plus the damage dealt past 0 hit points.
  • Bleed: Keep track of your  bleed total. Each round your bleed increases by the number of times you have taken bleed damage. Add this value to the criticals you receive.
  • Internal Bleed: Keep track of your internal bleed total. It does not automatically increase. Each round roll 1d100. If the result is equal to or less than your total internal bleed total, you fall over dead. Each point of internal bleed causes you to roll an additional 1d4 when hit to determine your critical severity.
  • Pain: Keep track of your pain total. Each point of pain reduces all die rolls by 1. (i.e. if you have sustained 2 points of pain, all your attack and damage rolls are at -2). Each round you may make a Constitution check to reduce your pain total by 1. Each point of pain you have adds 1d6 when hit to determine critical severity.
    • If you are a barbarian, bezerker, or any sort of rage or primitive fighter, pain instead provides a +1 bonus to all rolls
General rules that apply to all the systems above:
Determine which side of the body is struck randomly. Also: when bones are broken or injured, decide randomly, or use what is most exciting. It is suggested that cure light wounds only address hit point damage, and that you require extended rest and healing for wounds involving torn ligaments and bones. i.e. cuts can be healed with spells, but broken bones cannot. A cure critical wounds or heal spell can cure these conditions. Many of these wound will have a negative effect until addressed by a chirurgeon or someone with some degree of medical skill (or a cure critical/heal). On a failure of their skill, they will often leave some permanent damage due to an improperly set bone.When reading the table, effects are separated by a period. If a piece of armor is knocked off or destroyed, don't apply the second part of the effect. Not till the next time at least. 

Rest periods for various effects without magical aid (CCW/Heal):
  • Fractured bones: 1d6+6 weeks
  • Broken bones: 2+1d6 months
  • Torn Muscles/Tendons: 1d6+6 weeks
  • Shattered bones: 8+3d6 months
  • Organ Damage: 10d6 weeks. 10% chance of death per week.
  • Second Degree Burns: 1d4 weeks.
  • Third Degree Burns 2d6 weeks. 
If you fall unconscious, you obviously also fall prone. If you get a result that no longer applies ("How many ears do you have again Greg?"), move up to the next higher numbered item in the list.

This post is subject to the Alexandrian Rule - If you use it, you have to come back and report about it.

All conditions are as follows. All these definitions are trivially superseded by the PRD, and are summarized below.

Dazed: The creature is unable to act normally. A dazed creature can take no actions, but has no penalty to AC.
Deafened: A deafened character cannot hear. He has a 20% chance of spell failure when casting spells with verbal components.
Immobilized: The character is unable to move, but may still take an action each round.The character may move up to half speed with the assistance of another player.
Nauseated: Creatures with the nauseated condition experience stomach distress. Nauseated creatures are unable to attack, cast spells, concentrate on spells, or do anything else requiring attention. They may only move and take actions of a similar type (i.e. not attack).
Paralyzed: A paralyzed character is frozen in place and unable to move or act.
Prone: The character is lying on the ground. A prone attacker has a –4 penalty on melee attack rolls and cannot use a ranged weapon (except for a crossbow). A prone defender gains a +4 bonus to Armor Class against ranged attacks, but takes a –4 penalty to AC against melee attacks. It takes a turn to stand up.
Shaken: A shaken character takes a –2 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks.
Sickened: The character takes a –2 penalty on all attack rolls, weapon damage rolls, saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks.
Staggered: A staggered creature may take a single action each round.
Stunned: A stunned creature drops everything held, can't take actions, takes a –2 penalty to AC, and loses its Dexterity bonus to AC (if any).
First Aid: Condition (Penalty):  Some wounds require more than a cure light wounds spell to heal. This wound requires either knowledgeable medical attention or a Cure Critical Wounds or Heal spell to correct the condition after the colon. If a skill is used, and not a spell, failure may carry some sort of permanent penalty or consequence, noted in parentheses.


  1. I love the WFRP 1e crit system. I had a slayer in one of my campaigns that COULD. NOT. DIE. It was awesome and frustrating at the same time. By the end of the game, he was a paraplegic in a war chariot/wheelchair hybrid, pulled by the biggest, meanest, nastiest war dogs you've ever seen.

    It was majestic.

  2. Yep, The forthcoming tables (any minute now) should be reminiscent of that. I'm really excited about it!

  3. @Higgipedia

    War dogs!

    Diggin' that image of some tough bastard pulled into melee on Hell's Wheelchair.

  4. I'm liking "body damage at 0 HP or below" more and more. Errant RPG has a real interesting take on it.

  5. @ Roger:
    I gotta tell you, I don't like it. It's both fiddly (Track 6 different wound tracks) and plain. (You lose some stats). Of course you can just make up something cool, but you could do that with the abstract hit point system before.

    Just FYI: For our game we're probably going with the intermediate model. That way there's only 1 track (add up all the little integers) and things can go south quick.

  6. Used your table. I'm quite excited by the results. One of the party's Fighters is now sans an arm, and whilst it isn't impossible for someone to train themselves to fight one-handedly and return to the standard of fighting they had before such an incident, it'd take enough time that they'd effectively drop out of adventuring for years, which would mean the character in question won't be part of the campaign any more. So, a hardcore quest to be found worthy of a Regeneration spell is going to ensue.

    By and large the system performed as designed: it prevented actual PC death happening, but meant hitting 0 HP had consequences and put the fear of God into the players. We used the Intermediate version, for what it's worth.

  7. I borrowed your table and a number of variants by other bloggers for my own house rules. I'm really excited to have my players try it out. I'm sure they'll like it, as it keeps them up and fighting for longer, but also lets them get injured or die bloodily.

  8. I’m writing a series of blog posts on Death & Dismemberment Tables and have put yours down on my Honour Roll

  9. I used this today, on HotDQ, on the final fight on Greenest to grand effect. Will continue expanding its application

  10. Are you planning on adding the application of this for 5E? The healing rates are punishing (evidently by design) but they do not scale so well for 5E rules. I am pondering on using the Hit Dice recovery logic, with a hack of Combat & Tactics recovery logic.

  11. Right out of the gate, I liked this table. It reminds me of such awesome as Rolemaster. So, I used it at the table with my ACKS Dwimmermount campaign. At face value, it adds a fun element to dungeon mayhem, but, drilling down it does the job for which it was intended.

    Simply put, it increases the survivability of our various heroes and murderhobos while also terrifying them. I approve. I am all the approve.

    I only have one gripe. Reading the PDF is very...very difficult. I used a reader on my phone and all was well. I do like an actual document, though. That being my only gripe, I will call this table a success. Even my players loved it. Poor cleric, though. He'll be right as rain in 4 months...

  12. Am I just blind or has the table gone somewhere? I can't seem to find the tables to roll on.

    I love the idea, anything to put the fear of injury into my players 😜

    1. If you click the tag Series (Avoiding Death) you'll find all the posts that make up the table.

  13. Hey! Thank you for this table, planning to include it in my private non-profit mobile app.

  14. Hey! Thank you for this table, planning to include it in my private mobile app.

  15. Hi! I made a dismemberment table for psychic damage, I thought it might be useful for your purposes :)


    1. That's great!
      I don't know if you've seen Perdition, but it has my revised tables in it, and there is both social and mental critical tables!

    2. oooooh social critical hit tables :o

  16. Hey, I incorporated these into my game last night. I just used the super-simple, 3d12 version as I'm playing B/X and do want to keep things simple (plus I try to avoid using 'checks' to resolve actions if possible). These crit tables definitely kept one character alive, but he lost an eye and had a leg mangled. I wasn't sure if the intent was that no one dies unless they get a "dead" result on these tables, but that's how I played it.

    I have one incredibly reckless character, who somehow hasn't died despite his best efforts, who lept into a Coin Worm (monster from Stonehell), thinking it was a pile of treasure. So the worm gets surprise and bites him, reducing him to 0 hp on the first hit (he was already down to 2 hp), and "latches onto his leg, ripping flesh and bone." One of his allies fired an arrow at the worm but missed, and I have a houserule about firing into a melee...needless to say the arrow hit him and sliced his eye open, "spilling jelly through the air." So he's still...alive...but has no depth perception and will be limping for a month or two!

    The tables were a hit at the table, really spiced things up. It's a nice way to bring a bit of Rolemaster to the game, my first love...

    Thanks for everything you do, the resources you produce are astounding. I'm consulting your Traps document today to add some danger to the dungeon, since the party didn't accomplish their goal and had to retreat.

    1. Yeah! The intent is to remain alive until you die from the table. I think it's a lot more interesting to have terrible results and complications rather than death.


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